Volunteers Celebrate with Claus & Class

by Karen Adams and Becky Sanders


photo courtesy of Cathy Keys

Our annual volunteer appreciation/producer showcase was held on December 14 in the Midpen Studio.   This annual holiday screening and awards ceremony brings together staff, board members, producers, crew, donors and friends to honor the achievements of our volunteers in creating programming that engages, empowers, and connects our communities and celebrates the arts, culture, and individual expression.  Highlights from some of the past year’s studio productions, along with a visionary message from our Executive Director Annie Folger, can be viewed on our youtube page. 

In 2016,  255 cable access TV programs were created through the dedicated efforts of our studio volunteers.  Additionally, professional studio shoots totaled 28 with many of our volunteers pitching in on those as well.  When it takes 6-12 crew-members to commit anywhere from 2-8 hours depending on how complicated the shoot is, the “gift of hours” really piles up.  The complete list of our 2016 studio volunteers is posted on our website.

This year we would like to share some perspectives on volunteering from our experts on volunteering, namely the eight volunteers who topped 40 studio shows:  Kevin Burnett, Fred Bockmann, Alan Zoraster, Nozipo Wobogo, Toni Gooch, Alma Love, Nance Wheeler and Bryce Caudle.

#1 Kevin Burnett – 141 Shows


Kevin poses with Studio Tech Sara Bennett

Kevin has been with us for five years.  He’s mastered all crew positions in the control room—directing, graphics, technical directing with the TriCaster, and operation of the audio board, including music mixes, and is the “right hand” to our techs.  His innate understanding of all things digital has proven a tremendous asset during the studio’s transition from SD to HD in 2015. Kevin recently signed on as part-time staff and will be covering government meetings and events on behalf of the cities of East Palo Alto and Palo Alto.

“I volunteer at the Media Center for a number of reasons.  I like contributing to the community, I believe in the Media Center’s mission, and the place is like another family to me.  I have met some of my absolute best friends in the world here.  It feels like home.”

#2 Fred Bockmann – 84 Shows


Fred Bockmann has been with us almost 9 years and is most often seen manning the graphics engineering post.  He’s a former Apple Computer trainer, so he is a natural fit as graphics trainer and mentor in the control room.   Fred co-produces the new brain health series Of Sound Mind with staff from the newly-opened Stanford Alzheimer Disease Research Center.  Fred gives in other ways, as well, and recently donated the cost of new chairs in the control room.


fredschair“My volunteering has served as a foundation to a deeper connection to my community.  By joining a family of volunteers that care passionately about what they do, and how they care for each other and the quality of the shows they create, I became part of an important social movement.  The deal was sealed for me during one of my first volunteer experiences here, crewing on Future Talk.  I got to meet and have a conversation with the featured guest Doug Engelbart, computer pioneer, inventor of the mouse, one of the heroes of my youth.  Then I met LaDoris Cordell through the program Make the Call, and I became personally involved with the challenges and frustrations of the East Palo Alto Police Department, wanting to keep residents safe.  A conversation with LaDoris about making change from the ground up in East Palo Alto connected me to East Side College Prep, a non-prof that I have come to support as fervently as I do the Media Center.”  

#3 Alan Zoraster – 76 Shows


Alan has been with us for almost five years.   Alan drives all the way from Antioch — 2.5 hr round trip — to volunteer in the studio!  His specialty is directing, but he also runs the audio board, the TriCaster, and can be seen in the studio on camera and as floor director.  Alan co-produces the long-running series Toastmaster Time with George Marshall and Trich Gray.

Why do I Volunteer at the Media Center?  Wow, what a question, I enjoy being around energetic, enthusiastic individuals that want to see a job well done. With a wide age range of volunteers there is always the opportunity to learn new tricks of the trade.  The volunteers support one another, encourage one another, and evaluate to motivate for constant improvement. The shows… wow…I have had the opportunity to be involved with so many interesting shows, musical, legal, entertaining, informative.  I have been involved with shows about teen sports by teens, issues that the mayors from the surrounding cities have, [from] how to begin and write a winning presentation to how to plant a vertical succulent garden, children’s shows to big band presentations.  What is not to enjoy at the Media Center?   Good people to work with, constant improvement, and learning about issues in our area.”

#4 Nozipo Wobogo – 61 Shows


Nozipo has been with us since the mid 1990s!   Having been an ace in the SD studio, she has made it her mission to be master of the HD studio as well.  She has learned all the new HD digital equipment.  She most often serves as a graphics engineer, but she works the Tricaster and the audio board.  A dedicated lifelong learner, she inspires everyone who knows her with her can-do attitude.

“The Media Center actually gives in a realistic way a vehicle by which people can speak their minds and make war on anyone or anything that would prohibit their ability to continue to do so. The exchange of information whether it’s through art, verbal discussion or cultural practice is how our knowledge and understanding grows, giving us the tools we need to do what’s necessary in our lives and in the lives of others. Of course whatever information one shares should be as accurate as possible. Not that we must always agree but we certainly should not deliberately mislead the public. We need a place where folks can step up and support or offer a rebuttal to whatever ideas are out there. The Media Center, an incredibly important tool, is one of the ways that this can be accomplished. It is just one of the many reasons why I will continue to volunteer here. Politically speaking as many of us are beginning to see, we are really going to need strong sources of honest intelligence in the next few years as a way help, educate and inform people about what’s true and what’s not. Some of this will definitely come from our own media center!”

#5 Toni Gooch – 47 Shows


courtesy of phototrainer.com


Toni has been with us in the studio only 1 year —  since December 2015 — and is already our #5 studio volunteer, crewing 47 shows.  Coming to the MC from the high tech world, Toni is a natural on all the studio’s digital studio equipment and is an ace camera op.  Toni is also a Zoomer and most notably crewed on the documentary Cuba Cubano Canibaño which was screened in Cuba earlier this month.  Toni just completed the Media Center’s new 6-part documentary filmmaking workshop, so hopefully, she’s got a film in development.  No pressure Toni…!

“I get to work with and learn from an incredibly great and talented group of people, and there’s nothing like the satisfaction of being a (albeit small) part of many great video projects!”

#6 Alma Love – 46 Shows



Alma Love is another of our volunteers who has been with us since the 1990s.  She was a longtime camera op and floor director for the Live Poets series. In Sept 2015, she launched her own poetry/performing arts series—Artists Expression—showcasing her work as a poet, dancer, and musician, and that of other artists, with a special focus on youth and seniors.  Alma also has an artistic flair for production design and often adds her creative touch to our sets and special events, including the annual Holiday screening!

“I volunteer to get the experience working in television so I can establish myself as a TV producer so that I can create programs for our youth and seniors to give them exposure, to tell their stories.  The more I volunteer the more I learn.”

#7 Nance Wheeler – 44 Shows


Nance Wheeler has been volunteering with us since Aug 2010.  In that same year, she was recruited by the former producer of Talk Art to take over the series.  Nance went on to win a WAVE (Western Access Video Excellence) award for the series.   Aside from producing, Nance is one of our most accomplished directors and, as an artist herself, creates custom graphics for other Media Center series.

“I volunteer because it’s fun!  I work with a great bunch of techs and volunteers, and I meet interesting, creative guests. On top of all that, I get to play with the state-of-the-art technology in a fine studio.   What a wonderful place!”

#8 Bryce Caudle – 41 Shows



Bryce has been with us less than a year, completing the studio class in Feb 2016, but at the #8 ranking volunteer has already crewed 41 shows.  We are blessed to have Bryce, as he studied Cinematic Arts & Technology at CSU Monterey Bay and is sharing his professional knowledge with us, primarily in his favorite position as camera op and jib master. Bryce also volunteered his videographer skills to capture the filmmakers at this year’s United Nations Association Film Festival.

“I volunteer because I know how important it is for people to be able to hear local voices that matter to the community.”

If we created a word cloud about why volunteers volunteer at Midpen, words like community, family, stories, exposure, truth, friendship, information, speech, education and fun would be in the largest print.  We thank the volunteers for holding up a mirror and showing us our best selves.  Without our volunteers, as the old Biblical reference says, Midpen would be but a “resounding gong, a clanging symbol.”  Thank you to our volunteers for embodying Midpen’s mission to “inform, inspire and empower people to speak and act on behalf of their communities.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *